Friday, 27 March 2020

Those less fortunate


About a week ago (I have lost track of time in this weird pandemic pandemonium), in the light of supermarket shortages, the photo above went viral on social media. Comments focus on how "heartbreaking" it was, with plenty of weeping emojis and self-righteous indignation about the lack of brain cells of the loo-roll hoarders and their like.

I can imagine that most of these comments saw a tragic scene of a "poor elderly (anonymous) gentleman", sadly bowing his head in silent submission of his fate. The reality, I read later, was a little different. Anthony Glynn, a retired merchant seaman aged 79, had gone out shopping on behalf of his elderly neighbours and had forgotten his reading glasses so was squinting at his shopping list.

This reminds me of my parents, who, in their retirement helped out with "the old people" - in fact, in her 90s, my mum was still doing voluntary work for Age Concern, visiting older people who were housebound. Some of these were a good few years younger than her, of course.

In real life and in marketing (which shouldn't actually be different, but they are), there is an increasing tendency to cast everyone as a victim, to describe huge swathes of the population as generally "vulnerable" - without really saying to what in particular. And yes, human beings are vulnerable - to the COVID-19 virus for example.

But you can be resilient, courageous, even, as well as vulnerable. Society is not simply divided into "heroes and the vulnerable" or (in pre-corona days) into "the toxic and the victims". I found this article by sociologist Frank Furedi particularly illuminating on the current crisis. He calls for a cultivation of courage, and its attendant qualities of altruism, responsibility and wisdom.

Courage is not the same as fearlessness. You can't have courage without fear.

I do hope that one (admittedly not terribly high on the world priority list) consequence of the current crisis is that we'll see all those ridiculous "empowerment" campaigns for the nonsense and home-grown problem:solution guff that they are.




3 comments:

Sue Imgrund said...

Here's a good perspective from looking at other experiences of isolation on how we might come out the other side:
https://www.discover.ai/blog/covid-19-new_normal

Sue Imgrund said...

And an article about the rise of PTSD with a trigger warning attached: if you're told you should be traumatised, the chances are you will be
https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-rise-of-ptsd

Sue Imgrund said...

Nick Haslam, University of Melbourne:"Although conceptual change is inevitable and often well motivated, concept creep runs the risk of pathologizing everyday experience and encouraging a sense of virtuous but impotent victimhood."